5 Recipes From a Top Chef Master
Jerry Traunfeld, one of this season’s contestants, offers tips on how to master the art of the herb in your kitchen.
Jerry Traunfeld is chef and owner of the Seattle restaurant Poppy. Prior to opening his own restaurant, he received national acclaim as the chef at The Herbfarm, which was voted one of the top 10 restaurants in the United States in the 2007 Zagat Survey, is a Gayot’s Top 40 U.S. Restaurant, and is the only AAA 5-Diamond restaurant in the Northwest. He was a 2000 recipient of a James Beard Award for Best American Chef: Northwest and Hawaii. He is the author of the award-winning books The Herbfarm Cookbook and The Herbal Kitchen. Jerry also can be seen on this season’s Top Chef Masters on Bravo.
It is this recipe that inspired me to write The Herbal Kitchen. When I began thinking of writing a second cookbook about 10 years ago, I was experimenting in my restaurant kitchen with roasting salmon at a very low temperature. The gentle heat consistently turns out perfectly done, moist fish, and miraculously it’s one of the easiest and most foolproof ways you can prepare it. Most home cooks had never heard of the technique, but it translates flawlessly to the home kitchen and I felt the world needed to know about it. I thought of how great it would be to put together a collection of many recipes with similar magic, borrowing techniques I discovered as a chef, translated into extremely simple and quick home recipes, and all made fabulous with fresh herbs.
This is has been my go-to cool weather salad for many years, and it’s a favorite in my cooking classes, where students are amazed at how such little effort can turn out such an amazing salad. It has celery, nuts and winter fruit in common with the classic Waldorf, but choosing Asian pear, hazelnuts, and mustard vinaigrette to replace mayonnaise gives it swank. I love to use the Duchilly variety of hazelnuts that are grown in Washington state for this dish. They have such thin skins that don’t need to be removed, and their glossy rich brown color is gorgeous with the green and gold of the other ingredients.
Many chefs use potatoes to thicken pureed soups like this one, but I always find the potato flavor noticeable and the texture never completely silky and smooth. I prefer to use a tiny bit of rice. It gives the soup a velvety body, almost as if it were enriched with cream, without contributing a taste. This takes lots of parsley, but after all, it is a parsley soup—just the thing to begin a lovely spring dinner.
When I was working on the recipe mix for The Herbal Kitchen I tried to think of recipes that would be most valuable to someone who loves to cook at home but has limited time. Everyone needs side dishes for holidays and dinner parties, things that you can prepare ahead, throw in the oven, and bring to the table along with your roast or turkey. A savory bread pudding is just the thing. For this one I use dried porcini, my precious pantry staple, which brings savory depth of flavor to dishes that are rich with cream and eggs. And I use generous amounts of fresh marjoram, the herb I always consider first when I cook with mushrooms.
I’ve never been big on sugary, gooey desserts. Instead, give me tangy warm fruit, buttery crisp crust, and a creamy cold scoop of something on top. That’s why I’m a big fan of rhubarb cobbler. Rhubarb is so easy to prep, you just wash and slice, and cobbler biscuits come together in an instant, which means this is a dessert you can indulge in with about 20 minutes of effort.
Click here for more of Jerry’s recipes on Cookstr.com.